Summer Nights

Six Vignettes for Solo Horn and Concert Band

Duration: c. 16.30 minutes

 

Audio:

 

 

 

Publisher: STUDIO MUSIC COMPANY

 

Programme Notes:

SUMMER NIGHTS is based on the song cycle Les Nuits d’Ete (Op.7) by the French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-69) and more significantly the poems selected by Berlioz from the work of Theophile Gautier. Although there are some hints towards the Berlioz score in the form of loose quotations or the use of the same tempo indications, it is the poetry that provides the real clues as to the shape and content of this Summer Nights sequence. It was commisioned by the Hertfordshire County Youth Wind Orchestra and their conducted Phil Ellis for the young Hertfordshire horn player Tim Thorpe. These artists gve the world premiere at the Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London on 28 July 2002.

 

The work falls into six brief movements, or vignettes, each reflecting the content of the Gautier poem in question. In the Berlioz original the composer adjusted some of the poet’s titles to suit his own preferences. In this case the composer has taken either as fits his own choice. The original song cycle is essentially dark, encapsulated by movements of a more lively and positive nature.

 

1. Villanelle

Brass fanfares set the satge for the prevailing band ostinato figurations over which the solo horn sings its country song only to quickly fade into a distant memory.

 

2. The Ghost of the Rose

A more gentle ostinato commences procedings – the horn’s overlapping solo, this time more reflective and part of a greater ensemble with regard to melodic lines. The soloist is more of a commentator than a protagonist.

 

3. On the Lagoons

The soloist begins alone with a quotation from the opening of the Berlioz original (Ma belle amie est morte). The figure then becomes a key cell in what follows. The close, like the start, quotes from Berlioz.

 

4. Absence

The soft centre is reached in this nostalgic vignette. Some allusion to the Berlioz score is present but more as undercurrent than primary lines. The soloist repeats its line, each time somewhat adjusted and developed, until a rhapsodic close is reached with a hint of the opening movement in its tail.

 

5. At the Cemetery

A movement of atmosphere and gesture in which the soloist contratsa lyrical yet nostalgic commentary. Trumpet and band horn fanfares add to the distant quality – is all lost?

 

6. The Unknown Isle

The positive and life affirming conclusion of the Berlioz/Gautier cycle is maintained in spirit here. After brief fanfare motifs a jovial rondo is quickly stated by the soloist who repeats the theme between contrasting band interludes. The coda provides an unexpected conclusion again using the key motif of the first movement in a reflective fashion within the band.

 

Villanelle

 

When the new season comes,

When the cold is gone,

The two of us, my love, will go

And pick lily-of-the-valley in the woods.

Scattering beneath our feet the dewdrops

That tremble in the morning,

We shall go and hear the blackbirds sing.

 

The spring has come, my love,

It is the month that lovers bless,

And birds opening their wings

Sing songs from the edge of their nests.

Oh come and sit on this mossy bank

To talk of our beautiful love,

And say to me in your soft voice:

‘Forever!’

 

Far, far away, our footsteps wandering,

Startle the hidden rabbit from his hiding place,

And the deer admiring his great antlers

Reflected in the brook.

Then, quite happy and content,

Entwining our fingers for baskets, we return

Carrying wild strawberries from the woods.

 

 

The Ghost of the Rose

 

Lift up your eyelids

Brushed by a virginal dream;

I am the ghost of the rose

You wore last night at the ball.

You took me still bedewed

With the watering pot’s silver tears,

And among the glittering festivities

Carried me through the night.

 

Oh you who caused my death,

Will not be able to chase away

My rosy spectre who will dance

Each night at your bedside.

Do not fear I’ll demand

A mass or De Profundis;

This fragile perfume is my soul,

And I come from Paradise.

 

My fate was worthy of envy;

Many men for which would give their life

To have had such a beautiful death,

For my grave is on your breast

And on the alabaster where I rest

With a kiss a poet has writ’:

‘Here lies a rose,

The envy of every King.’

 

On the Lagoons

 

My lovely one is dead;

I shall weep forever.

Into the grave she has carried

My heart and my love.

She did not wait for me,

But returned to heaven;

The angel who led her there

Would not take me too,

   How bitter is my fate

   Ah! without love to set out on the sea.

 

The white creature

Is laid in the coffin;

Everything in nature

Seems to be in mourning.

The forsaken dove

Weeps and dreams of the absent one.

My heart weeps and

Feels deserted too,

   How bitter is my fate

   Ah! without love to set out on the sea.

 

Over me the vast night

Spreads like a shroud;

I sing my song

Which only heaven hears.

Oh how beautiful she was

And how I loved her.

I can love no other

As much as I loved her.

   How bitter is my fate

   Ah! without love to set out on the sea.

 

 

Absence

 

Come back, come back, my well beloved!

Like a flower far from the sun,

The flower of my life is closed,

Far from your rosy smile.

 

What distance lies between our hearts.

So much space between our kisses.

What bitter fate, what painful absence.

Such great and unsatisfied desires.

 

   Come back, come back, my well beloved . . .

 

From here, to there, so many plains,

So many towns and villages,

So many valleys and mountains

Enough to tire the horses’ feet.

 

   Come back, come back, my well beloved . . .

 

 

At the Cemetery

 

Do you know the white tomb

Where floats with plaintive tone

The shadow of a yew?

On the yew, a plain dove,

Sad and alone at sunset,

Sings its song.

 

A tune of morbid sweetness,

Both enchanting and deathly,

That hurts,

And which you would wish to hear forever;

A tune like the sigh in heaven

Of an angel in love.

 

It seems as though the awakened soul

Weeps beneath the ground

For the sorrow of being forgotten;

As one with the song.

 

On the wings of music

One feels a memory

Slowly returning;

A shadow with an angel’s form

Passes in a shimmering beam,

Shrouded in a white veil.

 

The pretty flowers of the night, half closed,

Exhale their sweet perfume around you,

And the phantom with its languid gestures

Extends its arms to you:

‘You will return.’

 

Oh never again will I go near that tomb

When the evening is spreading its sombre cloak,

Or listen to the pale dove

Singing from the summit of the yew

Its plaintive song.

 

 

The Unknown Isle

 

Tell me, young beauty,

Where would you wish to go?

The sail is spreading its wing,

The breeze is about to blow.

 

The oar is of ivory,

The flag of watered silk,

The helm of fine gold;

I have an orange for ballast,

For the sail, an angel’s wing,

And my ship’s boy is a seraphim.

 

   Tell me, young beauty . . .

 

Is it to the Baltic,

Or to the Pacific Ocean,

To the Isle of Java?

Or else is it to Norway,

To pick the snow flower,

Or the flower of Angsoka?

 

   Tell me, young beauty . . .

 

‘Take me’, said the beauty,

‘To that faithful shore

Where love lasts forever.’

‘That shore, my dear,

Is scarcely known

In the realm of love.’

 

   Where would you wish to go?

   The breeze is about to blow.

 

Summer Nights is dedicated to the memory of the composer’s cat, Sid:

 

‘for the cat that jumped over the moon’

 

Instrumentation:

TBC

 

Percussion Requirements:

TBC

 

Performance Notes:

 

Available Recordings:

The Year of the Dragon - Great British Music for Wind Band - Vol. 9

Horn: Bob Ashworth

Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra

Cond.  James Gourlay

Polyphonic Reproductions Ltd.

QPRM 146D

SUmmer Nights

Horn: Tim Thorpe

Hertfordshire County Youth Wind Orchestra

Cond. Phil Ellis

HCYWO